Hail to the Roadies

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Hail to the roadies

There’s a real temptation in most aspects of life to focus on the headlines and not pay close attention to the subheadings, caveats, and gory details.

We see this in politics; The candidate says he or she will cut taxes or fund free yoga lessons for everyone (yeah!) but the guy talking about the programs that will go wanting or where the revenue will come from is a downer and his voice gets lost in the news cycle.

We see this in entertainment; The arena-filling rock band puts on a show for the ages, but there is no attention given to the artists mixing the sound to make it really rock in the acoustically-disastrous venue. Or, the logistics teams that figure out how to get nine semi-trucks full of equipment and crew from St. Louis to Chicago and setup for the next gig in 48-hours. (In one of my future-life alternate careers, I personally want to work in logistics for a multi-purpose arena and help organize its conversion from NBA setup, to hockey game setup, to Monster Truck setup, to rock venue and back again to NBA configuration – all in a 12-day period.)

We see it in the financial services business…

The many people and teams working behind the scenes to make the headline event go off without a hitch are amazing in my book. I liken them to the solution experts at a place like Synthesis, who deal with a freakishly large number and variety of investment management marketing needs, and deliver a turn-key experience in time to allow our clients’ shows to go on.

When companies seek to accomplish a business goal, it’s usually a big-picture headline-grabbing result they are seeking:

  • Salespeople need iPads with comprehensive sales literature at their finger tips
  • PDF fact sheets need to be out the door first (before our competitors)
  • Pitchbooks must be personalized for each and every sales meeting
  • The website must function as a single global platform
  • Video commentaries need to be provided from every portfolio manager, every month

These are great visions, one and all, and each is achievable.  None are easy, cheap or overnight events, but that’s OK as long as you realize that when deciding how to move forward.

A vision needs to be big and meaningful for it to have real impact on an organization – but don’t overlook the details

The critical factor is to fund the vision in a way that really enables its fundamental success – not just the surface-level success.

Here’s a real life example to help me make my point.  

There is a firm who decided to implement a mobile briefcase solution for their sales force, with the specific goal of enabling configure-on-demand presentation decks.

They conducted a vendor review and selected the solution provider they felt had the most mature and feature-rich mobile platform.  After an arduous supplier governance, security, and contracting process they had the greenlight to implement the selected tool.  Implementation and deployment proceeded with only the requisite number of surprises and bumps and, viola — two-years later they had their mobile briefcase.  But — what they didn’t have was the means to support and update the materials going into that briefcase.  Marketing’s manual and ongoing obligation to support and feed the system was not budgeted for nor were tools to mitigate this considered.

Management prioritized the headlines and ignored the logistical details that make the solution truly successful, rather than just resume-level successful.

Successful business solutions for financial services marketing processes require very thoughtful consideration of the “how”

Automation solutions that drive compliant, timely and accurate information into the hands of consumers require very thoughtful consideration of the “how” factors involved in meeting and sustaining the proposed goal.

We don’t like losing a headline-opportunity simply because we talk about the gory details and a competitor doesn’t.  If a vendor waives a hand over details of “how” or re-directs the discussion to the make-believe reality of their demo or their low-low quarter-end pricing… be wary; buyer’s remorse is likely just around the corner. The coda on the true-life purchasing store described above is that this client’s focus on the headlines ended up being problematic for them in the end. They got their mobile briefcase, but realized after the fact that a back-end, compliance-approved, data-integrated content management solution was fundamentally missing from the solution. We happily came to their rescue and we’re in the middle of providing this functionality for them now.

The moral of the story?

We all want push-button solutions.

  • The band wants to just show up and play.
  • The politician wants to declare a policy and have it implemented the next day.
  • The business wants a new product or tool they can just install like an iPad app.
  • We all want to use the Force to levitate our x-wing out of a swamp.

But it’s important to recognize that infrastructure and logistics come first in any viable solution. There are real “guts” behind any technology-enabled process that require careful thought and execution. So when you’re searching for the right automation solution for your business, talk to the people who truly understand the logistics and infrastructure of this type of solution as it relates to your business. Listen to the expert who can provide you with the “how” for your specific scenario, not the guy pounding on the lectern insisting you commit to the headline NOW and let the rest come out in the wash. In other words, headlines might sell, but details pay dividends.  

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John Toepfer is CEO and Co-founder of Synthesis Technology. He is a technology entrepreneur, investor and business owner with a 25-year background in building and supporting communication solutions for the financial services industry. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons.

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